How to choose the right smartphone deal this December

This holiday season consumers are expected to tighten their purse strings and pay extra attention to their spending across the board. High ticket consumer electronics items such as smartphones that were once a sure bet to sell, will now be subject to extra scrutiny from the informed consumer looking to purchase handsets that are designed to last, and service plans that are more economical.

One of the factors sure to impact smartphone and mid-tier mobile phone sales during the holidays is the increasing use of text messaging and messaging-based applications. For many consumers text plans not only are more convenient but also more cost effective than voice plans.

But not all smartphones are created equal; from flat rate texting plans, to device support for free messaging applications, there are many considerations for budget conscious consumers this season. In order to help text-savvy consumers get the most bang for their buck, buyers should be considering a number of issues before making any smartphone or mobile phone purchase.

Airwide Solutions vice president of product marketing, Chris Lennartz, offered his top considerations for making a smarter smartphone purchase this holiday season.

He said the first thing users should do is pay extra attention to text messaging plans, data plans and coverage charges. “Whether you are purchasing a new phone as a gift or upgrading a handset when your contract is up, read the fine print and make sure you choose a text plan that fits your usage patterns and the capabilities of the device,” he stated.

According to Nielsen Mobile, during the second quarter of 2008 the typical cell-phone user sent or received over 350 text messages per month, as opposed to placing or receiving just over 204 voice calls, a 450% increase over the same period in 2006. “If you, or the recipient of the gift, makes purchases, receives marketing promotions or send pictures, be sure that purchase has an all you can eat plan to avoid getting hit with a big bill in January, added Lennartz.

Lennartz continued: “Make sure your new device is protected; this year alone, it’s estimated that Americans will receive over 1.5 billion unsolicited text messages, which can also bring unwanted spyware, or viruses with them. When choosing a phone buyers should insist on safeguards, both built into the device and into the service plan, such as data wipe features and enhanced spam filters that can detect malicious malware quickly. In the end, tighter security features can prevent you from having to pay overage charges for unsolicited mobile spam, replace content you have purchased and saved on your phone, and even from having to purchase a new phone before you are ready.”

He continued that the most important point is not to pay for what you won’t use; evaluate all the bells and whistles, Lennartz commented: “While high end smartphones are flashier, slicker and more feature rich than ever before, consumers should evaluate all types of devices and choose the phone with features that will enhance their individual experience. Sometimes you don’t need all the bells and whistles to have a great mobile experience. Frequent text message users may want to consider a few specs above others, ample memory to store messages, a QWERTY keyboard, and larger screens, particularly for the texter who plans on accessing multimedia content via MMS.

Applications sweeten the deal, concluded Lennartz. He said that according to a study by Mformation, people are increasingly making smartphone and mobile phone decisions based on the applications and level of customisation the handset offers, which is one of the reasons the iPhone and Google phone have drawn such consumer attention. He stated that 68% of mobile users don’t want to be locked into the apps that are preinstalled on devices, so when making a purchase consider what ability the user will have to personalise their device and whether or not access to those applications are covered under the text or data plan.